Lawmakers yesterday questioned the Executive Yuan’s plan to restructure the government, saying that while the objective of the initiative is to make the central government smaller and more efficient, the plan would make it bigger instead.
The government reform project was started in 1987, and amendments to the Organic Act of the Executive Yuan (行政院組織法) were adopted in January 2010 to reduce the number of ministries from 37 to 29. However, since the organizational reforms started in January last year, the inauguration of as many as 13 ministries is pending.
Another challenging task will be carry out the 135 legal revisions needed to complete the restructuing. A provisionary law regulating the reorganization and readjustment of Cabinet agencies will become invalid by Dec. 31 next year, meaning that all administrative transformations must be done by that date.
The chairs of the legislature’s Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), both called the delay “a disaster.”
Liao accused the Executive Yuan of not understanding the point of restructuring the government and of being too idealistic. He said that government restructuring in Northern Europe a few years ago not only reduced the number of civil servants, but also lightened the state’s economic burden.
However, there was no real “reform” in the Cabinet’s restructuring, only the “moving around of ministries,” which has resulted in none of the ministries being happy with the reorganization, Liao said. He added that a genuine restructuring would close extraneous ministries at both central and local government levels, as well as reduce the number of counties and cities.
Many government bodies have expressed their discontent with the proposed realignments. For instance, the Construction and Planning Agency has lobbied lawmakers to stay under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, instead of being made part of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The Forestry Bureau has also pushed to be allowed to stay with the Council of Agriculture, rather than being transferred to the future ministry of environmental resources.
Yu said the government’s restructuring plan is illogical and fails to resolve the biggest issue: a lack of exit mechanisms for public servants. She said that without such mechanisms, non-essential government staff would continue to be employed, while new workers would have no positions to fill. Hence, after the bureaucratic realignments, the number of government employees would grow, increasing the state’s burden without improving its efficiency.
Liao urged the Executive Yuan to propose better solutions because its controversial plans to establish a ministry of environmental resources and a ministry of health and welfare are not likely to be carried out as planned.
DPP Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) said she only sees mergers, not functional readjustments, in the Cabinet’s plans.
Citing the future ministry of health and welfare as an example, Wu said that while the Cabinet proposed creating a directorate-general for social and family affairs to oversee the Department of Social Affairs and the Child Welfare Bureau, such an agency would be able to solve problems requiring coordination between social affairs and health sectors.
Without readjusting agencies’ and ministries’ functions, mergers would not fulfil the objectives of the Executive Yuan’s government restructuring, Wu said.